Capital Region opera fans have not seen a local production of Tchaikovsky’s great dramatic opera “Eugene Onegin” in years, if ever. That sad neglect is now over thanks to the Seagle Music Colony’s impressive offering, which opened Wednesday night.
Tchaikovsky wrote 10 operas, and this one, which he wrote in 1879, has been a worldwide favorite for its lush music and very Russian love tragedy. It’s also a challenging opera in that the singers must be terrific actors besides having to possess great vocal stamina. Tchaikovsky, who wrote the libretto, gave plenty of room to delve into characterization, which the Seagle cast did well in exploring.
The plot: A young girl, Tatiana, falls in love with her worldly neighbor, Onegin, who rejects her. At a party a few weeks later, Onegin begrudgingly attends and out of pique flirts with her sister Olga to make Olga’s beau Lensky jealous. He succeeds and Lensky challenges him to a duel, in which Lensky is killed. Years later, Onegin, bored and lost, sees Tatiana, who is now married, at a party. He suddenly realizes he has always been in love with her and tries to ignite the old flame. He does, but she now rejects him.
WHERE: Seagle Music Colony, 999 Charley Hill Road, Schroon Lake
WHEN: 2 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $30 and $25
MORE INFO: 532-7875, http://seaglecolony.org; sung in Russian with English supertitles
Great soap-opera stuff
It’s great soap-opera stuff and the Seagle made the most of it. Soprano Christina Pecce as Tatiana sang with spirit but after her many long arias ran out of steam at the end. Baritone Jeffrey Williams as Onegin cut a tall, elegant figure and sang with wonderfully rich tones and smooth, finished lines. Except at the end, in which he became very animated, he physically seemed stiff. If this was to convey disdain, then he could have been a bit more arrogant with appropriate facial expressions, especially in his big rejection aria. His ability to drop his voice to a kind of croon was, however, very seductive.
Tenor Josh Eflin as Lensky has a voice that sounded unfinished. Yet his vocal expressiveness conveyed all his ardor, disdain, pain and anguish in compelling degrees. There were three excellent mezzo-sopranos: Megan Samarin as the girls’ mother; Anna Laurenzo as the aged servant, who hobbled about without stealing too many scenes; and Abigail Dock as Olga, who was the best actor in the show. She bubbled, she sang wonderfully, and she acted with a believable naturalness. Her facial expressions especially supported her projected emotions.
Everyone’s Russian was impressive, none more so than bass Stephen Clark as Tatiana’s husband, whose words were bell-clear. The large chorus sang and danced with confidence. Director Johnathon Pape designed excellent blocking patterns.
Richard Kagey provided the spare but effective set, which was lit with marvelously evocative lighting that Sean Jeffries designed. Costumes, which were rented for a high fee of $5,000, were mostly opulent. Pianists Tyson Deaton and Jason Smith provided musically sensitive support.